The Escapist: Lily Vanilli on her move from graphic designer to star baker
From Tourism Australia's in-house graphic designer to East-London cake baking extraordinaire, the YBF co-founder clues us in on how she made the jump from corporate to creative
My last 'proper' job was in Australia, where I was working as a graphic designer. I was only there for a year, and I ended up working for Tourism Australia. I didn't have any qualifications and taught myself Photoshop! I was offered a job as an in-house designer for the state of Victoria, so I did everything from billboards to ballot cards.
I was calling my friends to find out how to do things – I managed to pull it off and I enjoyed it. It was fun and exciting but I had no interest in working as a graphic designer long term. Cakes are the only thing I'm good at creating – I'm really bad at drawing and I grew up feeling very unartistic but when it came to baking, something just seemed to really click.
I moved back to London in 2008 when the recession was all kicking off and no one was hiring. I was struggling to find work and I knew how to bake, so I decided to sell cakes in order to make money.
It was a time when this kind of thing wasn't that common and I hadn't seen anyone make a success of it before. Having a business was quite far from my mind – this was before baking had become the zeitgeist and before cupcakes 'happened', so I ended up getting really swept up in all of that. Somehow, baking became the next big thing and my bakery grew really organically. It was never a decision. Ten years later I'm still doing it, and I'm very grateful for that.
A few years ago, it got to a point – because I've always done a lot of side projects, like the YBF awards and consulting – where I wasn't really in the bakery and it ran itself beautifully. But I really missed it and it didn't feel right. At the moment, I'm in the bakery most of the week. When I'm in London, this is my job again and I really like it – I make everything else work around it, and I like having the balance of baking cakes and it offsets my stress perfectly.